On November 19 rebel fighters took the sprawling government Base 46, 12 km west of Aleppo. Base 46 was used by the regime’s military as a launch-pad for bombing raids on rebel-held positions in the region. It was one of the army’s last strongholds in the north-west of the country.
The northeastern Syrian town of Ras al-Ain has been the scene of a violent struggle between Islamist forces and Kurdish militants since it was overrun by rebel forces in November, 2012. Islamist fighters accused the Kurdish militants, who were seeking to establish a homeland in the region, of collaborating with Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s regime. After a spike in violence in the beginning of 2013, the two factions agreed to a ceasefire on February 17.
Until July 20, 2012, Syria’s biggest city was spared much of the violence engulfing the rest of the country. Since then, Aleppo has become the frontline of fighting between rebel forces and Assad’s regime. For the rebels, victory in Aleppo would mean the creation of a vast free zone in the north. Meanwhile, the government cannot afford to lose the country’s main commercial hub. Over the past year, the city has been hit by regular bombardments, as well as shortages of water, food and electricity. Home to a number of UNESCO World Heritage sites, the violence in Aleppo has also sparked fears that much of the country’s historical monuments could be destroyed in the fighting. On April 13, 2013, the minaret of the city’s Grand Mosque, which dates back to the 11th century, was reduced to ruins.
Rebel forces first lay siege to the Wadi Deif army base in northwestern Syria in October, 2012. Months later on April 14, 2013, the Syrian army broke the siege, killing several rebel combatants. Since then, the base has been the scene of continued fighting between the two sides.
On February 11, 2013, a car bomb struck the border crossing at Cilvegözü, killing at least 17 people. Cilvegözü lies near the Syrian border post Bab al-Hawa, which has been under rebel control since the summer of 2012 and is frequently used by refugees fleeing violence in Syria.
On May 11, 2013, a double car-bomb attack struck the city of Reyhanli, which lies on the border with Syria. At least 46 people were killed in the explosions. Turkey’s government has blamed Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s regime for the attack, which was the deadliest on Turkish soil since the Syrian conflict began in March, 2011.
The Turkish city of Reyhanli is located in the country’s southern Hatay province. It is home to a large Alevi community, a religious minority of Islam often associated with Syria’s Alawites, the same Shiite sect to which the country’s President Bashar al-Assad belongs. A number of Turkey’s Alevi have watched the influx of refugees with a wary eye, as many of those fleeing the violence in Syria are Sunni Muslims and armed rebels. Following a deadly explosion in Reyhanli on May 11, 2013, the city has endured almost daily protests against the refugee camp, which have occasionally turned violent.
The Suleymansah refugee camp, located just outside the Turkish border city of Akcakale, found itself in the crossfire of mounting tensions between Turkey and Syria in October 2012, after Ankara fired on Syrian targets in retaliation for a deadly mortar attack on Akcakale. The camp made headlines again in March 2013, when clashes erupted between Turkish security forces and refugees protesting against the poor living conditions at Suleymansah. In order to break up the demonstrations, security forces used tear gas to scatter the protesters. In the wake of the unrest, Turkey’s government found itself embroiled in scandal after it was accused of expelling more than 100 refugees believed to have been involved in the protests. Turkey has denied the allegations.
In early May, Turkish authorities announced plans to build a new refugee camp near the southeastern town of Midyat, which will provide shelter exclusively to Syriac Christians fleeing their homes in Syria. Midyat is located in a region of Turkey that is traditionally the centre of the Syriac Orthodox Church. The camp is due to open at the end of June, and will have the capacity for up to 2,000 refugees.
On April 24, Syrian rebel forces seized control of the Menagh military airport, located in a suburb of Aleppo, Syria’s largest city.
After months of combat, Syrian rebel forces seized control of the Taftanaz air base in the country’s northern Idlib province on January 11, 2013. A number of Islamist militant groups took part in the fighting, including the al Qaeda-linked al-Nusra Front.